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The Ayodhya of Telecom

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VoicenData Bureau
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Just like the Ayodhya tangle, the WLL versus Cellular litigation also seems to be heading towards an endless spiral. And service providers and users seem to be losing confidence in the Governments’ ability to get this sorted out. 

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The GSM camp swears by the National Telecom Policy ’99 and claims that allowing WLL unlimited mobility will go against the spirit of the policy, and is illegal. They feel that the Indian Government is not capable enough to enforce the policy decisions, and even some court decisions. 

The WLL camp says that technology should not be held hostage to policies if it can offer cheaper and better services to consumers. Their strategy is to keep moving and expanding considering the massive response they have been getting from public to their price and service offers. They cannot wait for the TDSAT and TRAI recommendations. 

The latest TDSAT judgment is out for everyone to see. But as expected, wrangling over interpretation continues. While everybody understands that these are teething blues of a liberalizing telecom sector, they do not want this to be allowed to go on. What is needed urgently is a solution that will end the subscribers’ dilemma as to which service to chose from–a solution that will end the service providers’ uncertainty about network expansion and future investments. And most importantly, a message that needs to go out to everybody that the law will finally prevail. And that court decisions will be implemented and enforced.

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Obviously, this still does not take away the core issue. Do we go by the policy, or do we go with what new technologies offer? History has shown that policy has not been able to suppress technologies from developing and becoming popular. The long-term vision of Indian telecom should be based on this premise. The DoT, the TRAI, the TDSAT, and even if the Supreme Court gets involved later, must keep this in mind.

Like Ayodhya, there are not too many options in this case too. The Ministry of Communications will have to have the courage to take the bull by its horns. Which means that despite all the pressure it surely must be under, the ministry and the DoT need to take a stand. They clearly need come out with its interpretation of the TDSAT judgment, whichever way it is, and the second is to get it implemented. The Government will even need to undo some of the wrong decisions of the past and face flak for it. There will even be some initial opposition from those in whose favor the decision does not go. That will only be temporary, and then everybody will get down to business as usual.

Ibrahima Ahmed

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